My move into advertising coincided with my rapid reappraisal of the intelligence of the great British public. I mean… do people really fall for this?
I’m not haranguing people in the ad business – there are as many bright sparks here as in other sectors – but the sheep-like trance of the unwashed hoi polloi, bedazzled and numbed by the sensory harrassment of marketing and media overload. But maybe I’m being too generous. Maybe people are simply stupid.
For example, Polkadotholes spotted a story from The Register about a guy stuck down a manhole, yelling for help, while people simply walked by as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. Mind you, this happened in Dorset which, despite having spectacular, beautiful scenery, has the most insular and unfriendliest population of numpties I’ve ever encountered in England. It’s even worse than Norfolk.
But what has set me off today is this ad from Sainsbury’s:
Supposedly, a man in a gorilla suit wasn’t spotted by shoppers. They were too intent upon their grocery rush to notice a 6-foot simian lurking amongst the shelves.
Sainsbury’s were being rather cheeky because the ad is a direct rip-off of a well-known academic experiment (by Dr Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois and Dr Daniel Levin of Vanderbilt University, seeing as you were about to ask), which apparently proves that it is possible to see something without actually observing it. In other words, something happens right in front of your eyes but you don’t notice it.
There’s an amusing video by Dr Simons. In it, students throw basketballs to each other. The tape was played to people who were asked to count the passes, many of whom fail to notice someone in a gorilla suit wandering across the scene.
My reading of the experiment, and of Sainsbury’s ad, is that if we’re too preoccupied with a task in hand, that we won’t notice the even the most ridiculous stimuli around us (including advertising, most of which we blank out anyway). This is very feasible, but it doesn’t account for sheer dumbness, and I wonder if there’s a correlation with low intelligence.
If there is, then the monkey invasion will be a breeze.
A good description of the study can be found in the Daily Telegraph but you may need to register first before the site will let you in.